This post is the second installment of a series of posts that tell the story of my seven year marriage. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed living it…
We got married too young. My parents knew it. His parents knew it. I knew it. Chris knew it. Everyone knew it. At our wedding reception, our first dance was to Elvis Presley’s Fools Rush In. “Wise men say, only fools rush in, but I can’t help falling in love with you.” That was us. Fools. Fools completely in love with each other. Fools who had grown up together – who were still growing up together. Fools who were too foolish to know that we didn’t know the first thing about being married. But fools who couldn’t take another step forward in life without having the other fool by their side. That was us. Just a couple of fools.
Though it surprises some people that Chris and I are still happily married seven years later (pools by our high school friends had us clocking out at two years…) the miracle to me is not that we are still married, but that we ever made it to the alter to begin with. Chris was what you would call a…let’s see…how can I put this delicately? He was a man-whore. Yes, a high-school aged, hormone crazed, charming the pants literally right off of girls, man whore. And I was in student government, youth ambassador at my church, and part of an abstinence education program in the public school systems. We were polar opposites from the very beginning, though I am happy to report that like a good barrel of wine, our flavors have married together over the years and we seem to be a nice, robust blend now. But back then, we were a whirlwind of drama that would make any teenage vampire/werewolf/wizard novel of today look like Sweet Valley High.
Even at the age of fifteen, I saw something in Chris. I saw that he went home for dinner with his Dad and sister every single night, no matter what was going on and that told me that he, like me, put family first. I saw him spend summers working with middle school kids at camps and that told me that he, like me, made giving back a priority. I saw him skipping classes but only so that he could spend more time building theater sets (which he would later do professionally for Broadway) and that told me that he, like me, was driven and focused. Even though Chris was a man whore whose high school parties were infamous for underage drinking and…everything that goes along with underage drinking…we actually had a lot in common. And we had the things in common that counted.
And so, I waited. I waited for Chris to grow up. And when he made mistake after countless mistake, I still waited because I knew that mistakes were just part of his growing up process and I could see that he truly cared enough to learn from those mistakes. And because I waited for him, he fell in love with me not because of what I brought to his life, but because I saw the value of what he brought to mine. I think that was my first lesson in love. It’s not about what one person does for the other person, it is about what you can do together for each other.
So, with that in mind, we graduated from high school with the scars of adolescent heartbreak on our sleeves and we headed off to separate colleges, agreeing to stay together until one of us found someone else. No big promises. Just the love of our high school sweetheart as the baseline for any other relationship to surpass. And over the four years we were in school, nothing ever surpassed what Chris and I had. We spent those years traveling back and forth to see each other every couple weekends. We sent love notes and spent God knows how much money on cell phone bills.
Our junior year of college, Chris and I took a Christmas vacation, just the two of us, to New York. Neither of us had ever been to New York before. I look back now at pictures from the two of us on that trip and we look like such babies. Like we had to take cabs everywhere because we may not actually be old enough to drive ourselves. That young. But isn’t that what they say? New York is for young lovers?
No? They don’t say that?
Well, they should.
We spent a week exploring the Big Apple like the two wide-eyed small town tourists that we were. On our last night in New York, Chris and I went to see The Rockettes in Radio City Hall. Classic New York. I was in love that night. In love with the lights of the city. In love with the sound of the Salvation Army bells ringing on the sidewalks. In love with the dancers in their soldier costumes. And in love with the boy who was sitting next to me. All was right with the world.
Chris would later tell me that the platinum band in his pocket set off the metal detectors as he entered Radio City with me that night. When the security guard patted him down and found the little red box tucked into his jacket pocket, he patted him on the back, gave him a wink and a big smile, and said, “Enjoy your evening, Sir.”
After the show, Chris and I walked down to Rockefeller Center and Chris asked if I wanted to ice skate. I squealed as we tied on our ice skates and took to the ice. As we skated hand-in-hand, Chris talked about what a great time he had had on our trip. He talked about what fun experiences and adventures we had had so far together, about fun things we’d done and crazy stories that build up only when you’ve been together since you were children. And then he stopped skating and turned to face me on the ice. Right there in under the lights of the enormous Christmas tree, he got down on one knee.
“The life that we’ve already shared together isn’t enough for me. I need more than that,” he said, pulling the ring box out of his jacket and holding the most beautiful diamond solitaire out to me. “Will you marry me?”
I said yes and jumped into his arms, just as the crowds of tourists looking down from above started cheering for us. It was, and still is, the most magical moment of my entire life.
The wedding would be over a year later on June 4, 2005. The doors of the church opened and there at the end of that long aisle, stood my groom. The love of my young life. And I remember thinking how fitting it was to walk down the aisle of a church where I had grown up and into the arms of the man that I had grown up with. He looked handsome. And terrified. And incredibly happy. And as I walked down that aisle, we never took our eyes off of each other.